Preview – Undercover: Britain’s Cheap Clothes

Undercover: Britain's Cheap Clothes

Another commendable investigation from the Dispatches team, in which volunteers go undercover to expose the textile factories in the UK making clothes for some of the biggest brands, while workers toil in appalling conditions.

In 2010 reporter Tazeen Ahmad exposed poor conditions in clothes factories located in the heart of Britain. Returning to the story six years on she finds little has changed with workers being paid less than half the national living wage and working conditions that pose a serious fire risk.

A Dispatches undercover reporter, Belal, gets a job in Fashion Square Ltd to report on the conditions inside the factory. As a new recruit he is put to work at the end of the production line, Belal’s job is to stick bar codes and labels on clothes – labels for River Island.

River Island’s most recent published accounts, 2014, show they made an operating profit of £144million.

After two days working in the factory Belal has still not been told how much he will get paid, or when.

Belal should be paid at least the National Living Wage of £7.20 per hour and challenges the man who hired him to talk about pay.

Boss: How much do you get paid in London?

Belal: It depends where you’re working.

Boss: That’s why I’ve asked to see you. You won’t get paid as much as that for the work you’re doing here.

Belal: I spoke to, and he said he’ll let me know how much he’ll pay me after he’s seen my work.

Boss: Yes, yes. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. What were you paid in London?

Belal: I got at least £7.20.

Boss: You won’t get that here. That’s what I’m telling you. We don’t get paid much for our clothes, and we need to compete with China and Bangladesh.They can get it cheap there. How will they get it made cheaper here? If we pay everyone £10 or £6 then we will make a loss.

Belal: You are comparing it with Bangladesh and places like that?

Boss: Yes, yes, yes. This is the situation.

Belal leaves with a £110 for a week – which works out at £3 for packing and pressing these River Island dresses. That’s £4.20 below the National Living Wage of £7.20

Dispatches is one of the few remaining examples of challenging investigatory journalism and deserves more than a half hour slot.

Dispatches – Monday 8.00pm on Channel 4.